"Don't throw baby out with the bath water"
Baths equaled a big tub of hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of nice clean bath water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all, the babies. By that time the bath water had gotten so dirty you could actually loose someone in it. Hence the saying "Don't throw baby out with the bath water."
"It's raining cats and dogs"
Houses had thatched roofs. Thick straw piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets (cats, dogs, and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals with slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."
"Beautiful big four poster beds with canopies"
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. So, they found out the if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big four poster beds with canopies.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor."
The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread the thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. A winter wore on, the added more thresh until when you opened a door it would start falling outside. A piece of wood was placed before the entry way, hence a "thresh hold."
"Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old"
They cooked in a kitchen a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate vegetables as they never had much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving the leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food that had been in there for over a month. Hence the rhyme: peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.
"Bring home the bacon"
Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company came over, they would bring out the bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could really "bring home the bacon."
"Chew the fat"
They would cut off a little to share with the guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed a lot of time worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get "trench mouth."
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust."
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple days. Someone walking along the road would mistake them for being dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of a "wake."
"Graveyard shift," "saved by the bell," "dead ringer"
England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up the coffins and would take their bones to a house and reuse their grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of twenty five coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and the realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string to their wrist and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night and listen for the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer."
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